Richmond grapples with spread of anti-casino signs.
By John Simerman
Contra Costa Times
Posted: 03/29/2010 06:46:38 PM PDT
Updated: 03/29/2010 06:46:38 PM PDT
City workers are trying to keep up with the illegal spread of signs that call on three City Council members to oppose an Indian casino-resort on the Richmond shoreline.
The city has torn scores of anti-casino signs from utility poles and other public spots in the past few weeks, said Tim Higares, code enforcement manager with the Richmond Police Department.
"I have been getting a lot of complaints from the public about the signage," he said.
A local ordinance requires permits for 25 or more temporary signs, with identification numbers on each sign. The aim is to control blight and identify who is responsible for taking the signs down after 90 days. No one has taken out a permit for the anti-casino signs, according to the city attorney's office.
The signs appear to be the work of Stop the Mega Casino, a group of card clubs that has registered with the city as an "expenditure lobbyist."
The group has stood as the most aggressive opponent of the plan for a major Las Vegas-style casino and commercial attraction at Point Molate.
In early March, it launched TV and mailer ads that reflected a violent, seedy Richmond, arguing the casino project would burnish a climate of drug dealing, loan sharking and crime in the city.
Chuck Finnie, a spokesman for the group, said that the campaign hired a private vendor to erect the signs and that it directed placement only on private property.
Higares said that the permit requirement applies to private property as well, but that his team was removing only the signs on public property. Higares said he was under no orders to remove the anti-casino signs specifically.
"We're not focusing on political signs," he said. "At this point, anything on public property, we're ripping it. A lot of those are the casino signs."
The casino project has become an early flash point in an election year with the mayorship and three council seats up for grabs. The signs take aim at council members Ludmyrna Lopez, Jim Rogers and Maria Viramontes. All three face election battles this year, and each has either expressed conditional support or remained noncommittal on the casino project.
The City Council must certify an environmental review of the project, with a vote expected late this year. The Guidiville Band of Pomo Indians also must win federal approvals to lay claim to the land for a casino. The tribe has pledged some $17 million a year in payments to the city, and $12 million to Contra Costa County, while promising thousands of jobs for local residents.